Daily Archives: 31 October 2008

Why Oh’s Home Run Record Stands

In the third of a three-part series in the Japan Times on the remarkable baseball career of Sadaharu Oh, Robert Whiting reveals another reason why nobody in Japan has been able to break Oh’s record of 55 home runs in one season.

The one big black mark on Sadaharu Oh’s reputation was, of course, the unsportsmanlike behavior of the pitchers on his team whenever foreign batsmen threatened his single season home run record of 55.

The phenomenon had first surfaced in 1985, when American Randy Bass playing for the Hanshin Tigers, who went into the last game of the season — against the Oh-managed Giants at Korakuen Stadium — with 54 home runs.

Bass was walked intentionally four times on four straight pitches and would have been walked a fifth, had he not reached out and poked a pitch far outside the plate into the outfield.

Oh denied ordering his pitchers to walk Bass, but Keith Comstock, an American pitcher for Yomiuri reported afterward that a certain Giants coach imposed a fine of $1,000 for every strike Giants pitchers threw to Bass….

A replay of the Bass episode came during the 2001 season. American Tuffy Rhodes, playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, threatened Oh’s record.

With several games left in the season, Rhodes hit the 55 mark. But during a late season weekend series in Fukuoka, pitchers on the Hawks refused to throw strikes to Rhodes and catcher Kenji Johjima could be seen grinning during the walks.

Again Oh denied any involvement in their actions and Hawks battery coach Yoshiharu Wakana admitted the pitchers had acted on his orders.

“It would be distasteful to see a foreign player break Oh’s record,” he told reporters….

A second replay occurred in 2002, when Venezuelan Alex Cabrera also hit 55 home runs, tying Oh (and Rhodes) with five games left to play in the season. Oh commanded his pitchers not to repeat their behavior of the previous year, but, not surprisingly, most of them ignored him. There was more condemnation from the public, but, curiously, not from Oh, who simply shrugged and said, “If you’re going to break the record, you should do it by more than one. Do it by a lot.”

Such behavior led an ESPN critic to call Oh’s record “one of the phoniest in baseball.”

In Oh’s defense, there was probably nothing he could have done to prevent his pitchers from acting as they did. Feelings about “gaijin” aside, it was (and still is) common practice for teams to take such action to protect a teammate’s record or title….

Still, amid all the fuss about protectionism in baseball, it is noteworthy that no one in the Japanese game ever sees fit to mention the fact that Oh hit most of his home runs using rock hard, custom-made compressed bats.

A batter using a compressed bat, it was said, could propel a ball farther than he can with an ordinary bat. Compressed bats were illegal in the MLB when Oh was playing in Japan, and were outlawed by the NPB in 1982 after Oh retired, but well before Bass, Rhodes and Cabrera had Japan visas stamped into their passports.

One of the enduring ironies, of course, is that Oh was born a Japanese citizen in Taiwan in 1940, but became a citizen of the Republic of China after Japan lost the war in 1945. His name is variously rendered as 王貞治, Wang Chenchih, Wáng Zhēnzhì, or Ō Sadaharu.

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Japanese Temple Moves to South Carolina

Thursday’s International Herald Tribune has a story about a Japanese temple that migrated from Nagoya to South Carolina.

The former Buddhist temple sits opposite a waterfall on the campus of Furman University, with vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains when the trees are bare….

Believed to be the only temple moved from Japan to the U.S., the so-called Place of Peace was shipped in 2,400 pieces and reassembled by 13 specialized temple artisans from Japan.

After three years of fundraising and 2 1/2 months of construction, the building is serving as a classroom and a centerpiece of an Asian studies program that graduated 60 students last spring — three times the number it did five years ago.

Shaner’s ties to a Japanese family that moved to Greenville in the 1960s helped bring the temple to campus. TNS Mills, which stood for Tsuzuki New Spinning, supplied spools of thread to the textile mills that were the heart of Greenville’s economy. Sister and brother Yuri and Seiji Tsuzuki — chairman of what is now Wellstone Mills — grew up in Greenville, but the family maintained its home in Japan.

The temple was built on Tsuzuki land in Nagoya in 1984 as the family’s private worship place.

When they sold to developers, the siblings in November 2004 proposed a way to save the temple from destruction: Offer it to Furman. The family has a long-standing friendship with Shaner, a world-renowned aikido instructor and sensei, or teacher, to Yuri and Seiji Tsuzuki’s mother, Chigusa, who died in 1995.

But the school had to move quickly. The temple had to be off the family’s property by January 2005.

“The reason why this is so rare, had this temple ever served a lay community and had an assigned priest, then you would never, ever, ever move it from Japan,” Shaner said. “It would be like bad karma.”

The temple was disassembled and shipped overseas in four 40-foot containers, with each piece labeled and its beams secured by wood braces to prevent warping. It sat in the Tsuzukis’ storage in Gaffney, South Carolina, as the school raised $400,0000 for the temple’s reconstruction and maintenance.

I would bet that a good bit of that money was raised from people who had already been donating to support Southern Baptist missionaries in Japan. This is a nice turnabout. A Japanese temple overlooking the Blue Ridge certainly appeals to me.

via Japundit

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Filed under education, Japan, migration, religion, U.S.